acetylcholine

  1. Choline on your mind

    Some nutrients, like vitamin D, always seem to be making headlines -- while others, you just never hear about.

    Take choline, for example.

    When was the last time you heard about that one? Possibly never -- but you might want to add it to your vocabulary, because this B vitamin found in egg yolks, liver, and chicken may have the power to protect your brain and keep dementia at bay.

    Researchers looked at data on some 1,400 adults between the ages of 36 and 83 who were tracked for nearly a decade and given MRI exams along with tests to check both memory and cognitive ability.

    You might want to stock up on eggs: The patients with the highest dietary choline intake did much better on those memory tests than those with the lowest. What's more, the MRIs revealed fewer signs of "white matter hyperintensity" in the brain.

    That's a blood vessel problem that may be linked to both stroke and dementia.

    Sounds great, right? But there's just one catch: The choline levels were calculated based on food surveys, and food surveys simply aren't good science. They rely too much on guesses, estimates, and memory.

    That last one's a little ironic given that memory tests were part of the study. Can those who did the worst on those tests really be relied on to give an accurate accounting of their food intake?

    On the other hand, this study doesn't come out of the blue, either -- because choline is needed by the brain to make acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in everything from muscles to memory.

    Some studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients lose the ability to turn choline into acetylcholine, and some promising experimental research has looked into finding ways to correct that -- although if the problem is in the conversion, then choline supplements on their own won't stop the disease.

    But if they can prevent it, we're on the right track -- and earlier studies have shown that rats given choline in the womb go on to develop more powerful brains later.

    Since choline is also essential for everything from your heart to your liver, you might want to add this to your supplement list. After all, it's unlikely you're getting enough from diet alone -- unless you're eating plenty of egg yolks.

    By the way, choline isn't the only B vitamin that can play a key role in stopping and even reversing cognitive decline: Seniors given a blend of B6, B12, and thiamine did significantly better on memory tests and had fewer signs of the brain shrinkage linked to dementia.

    Learn more here.

  2. Deadly warning over common meds

    Pharmaceutical drugs are supposed to help you... not hurt you. Yet every time I turn around, there's ANOTHER report about ANOTHER way these meds can kill you. Here's the latest.

    A certain combination of drugs can increase your risk of death. The drugs in this case cut across all classes and categories and include everything from painkillers to antidepressants to antihistamines. But they do have one thing in common: They block acetylcholine, a major neurotransmitter.

    British researchers rated 80 meds based on this neurotransmitter-blocking effect, giving one point to drugs with the mildest effects, two for moderate, and three for the most severe. After examining data on more than 13,000 seniors, they found that higher total point combinations led to a dramatically higher risk of death.

    Seniors with a combined four points – a severe drug and a mild one, for example -- had a 20 percent chance of death in two years, even after adjusting for disease and other risk factors.

    Seniors who took no meds, on the other hand, faced only a 7 percent risk of death in that time.

    Bad enough if it ended there -- but it didn't.

    Each point beyond the first four boosted the death risk by another 25 percent.

    Of course, even if the drugs don't kill YOU, they could still be killing your brain.

    Patients with a combined score of five or more also suffered a four-percent drop in brain function. No surprise there. After all, low acetylcholine levels have been linked to cognitive decline and dementia before. I can't help but wonder how many seniors who suffer from the condition would be cured if they just got off these meds...

    Don't be another nameless victim in Big Pharma's drug war. Starting today, figure out the anticholinergic load of your own meds and work with your doctor to get off as many of them as possible -- or at least switch to drugs that don't all have the same effect on your brain.

    Better yet, work with a naturopathic physician who can get you off your meds completely, and you won't just lower your death risk -- you'll raise your quality of life.

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